Although the merits of sending families home before scheduled repatriation dates are a topic of continuous debate, we know that some companies are resorting to this course of action. Where children are involved, the situation is understandably more sensitive, and companies are struggling to come up with cost-effective, yet fair and reasonable solutions.
If you find you have to make or implement difficult decisions when it comes to children and their education, preparing yourselves, and helping parents prepare, is the most effective way to handle the delicate task at hand. Three things that parents should keep in mind are:
- The resilience of children
- Opportunities that come from change
- Thoughtful communication
First, anxious parents need reassurance that children are extremely resilient and don’t, as a matter of course, suffer long-term as a result of transition, although the anticipation of change and the early stages in a new school are challenging for everyone. In typical circumstances, the children who find change most difficult are those whose parents do. So it is important that parents make every attempt to recognize and convey the opportunities the family has had and will have, and to address any problems as a family. Any concerns that children cannot comprehend should be saved until after bedtime. Parents should share as much about the circumstances as children want to know and are able to absorb, using their questions as a guide. It is essential that they are told that neither they nor their parents have done anything wrong, and that the current economic circumstances are something that the world is confronting together. Parents can explain that many of their friends also have been making life changes as a result of the recession. Some have moved homes, and others have switched schools. Different families will make different kinds of choices, but sacrifices are now common among friends and family members.
These are some additional tips that can be shared with parents to provide them with peace of mind:
- Be available to speak with children and to answer any question they may have.
- Make thoughtful choices about the new school, reflecting on academic and social characteristics of children and how they have fared in their current school, in addition to family values and logistical circumstances. Gather lots of information and ask many questions about matters important to children, rather than focusing on factors more important to adults.
- Before starting the new school, engage the head and/or teacher in a conversation about the child so that good class placement decisions are made and the new teacher understands the child, his/her needs as well as current transitional circumstances.
- Address curriculum differences through tutoring or outside enrichment, but first clarify that there are likely to be discrepancies between performance in their new and former schools; parents should explain that each school teaches different material so that the child is not at fault if s/he struggles at the outset.
Communication, both with the school and with the child, is the key to a successful transition. When families are calm and thoughtful, a change of schools can give children an opportunity to learn essential life skills such as making new friends and dealing with uncertainty, which is an invaluable part of any education.
More About Liz: